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Sunday, October 26, 2008


The End Of Cinema

Iron Man fights against the Ten Rings army.Image via WikipediaYears ago, I was a film critic. I ran a site called Mixed Reviews, with the fiercely talented writer you probably know best as Brilliant at Breakfast. For a number of years here at ModFab, I continued to dabble in film reviews; recently, though, I've found it very difficult to care at all about cinema.

Part of it is me...usually, I see over 125 movies a year. In 2008, I've seen 14. And with the exception of one (Tell No One), they have all been less than stellar. Some have been good (Rachel Getting Married, Iron Man, and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, for instance), but none of these reached the rarefied realm of brilliance. Movies have gotten lackluster, in my opinion. And with television enjoying its second golden age (which began eight years ago with The Sopranos, Battlestar Galactica and The Wire and lives on today with Mad Men and Lost), cinema has lost its place as the primary universal touchstone for our society.

Another part of it, frankly, is Netflix. I no longer feel compelled to run out to see mediocre pap like Choke, when I know I can watch it in a few months in the comfort of my own home, on my schedule, on my big sweet monitor...and there, it will be silent, free of screaming children, cell phone adolescents, and the glow of text-frenzied teenagers.

Of course, there are some movies that can't be evaluated in a living room. And I am excited about upcoming films like Synedoche, New York, Australia, Doubt, Revolutionary Road, and Milk. But can I get back into the groove of regular movie criticism...or even regular moviegoing? I don't know.

It seems like my old friend is having the same thoughts I am. I know there are movie lovers and movie bloggers in the ModFab family, some of whom I met in my former life. Anyone want to talk me back into being a movie lover? What are you loving right now?
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Blogger Esther said...

Hey ModFab,
I definitely agree with you.

I used to see a lot more movies in the theater, but I simply have less free time now and I know that anything I want to see, I can watch on dvd in a few months. (I love my Netflix subscription, too.) There's simply no sense of urgency anymore.

And most movies, frankly, don't require the big screen. Sure, there are some exceptions. I saw the latest Indiana Jones movie in the theater and I'll go see Milk, because I want to give it some box-office love. A movie like Australia also sounds like it would be great to see in the theater.

But increasingly, a lot of the movies that I'd like to see don't even make it to my local 16-screen multiplex. They'd rather show the latest big-budget action movie on 6 screens.

For example, I went to see "The Queen" when it first came out and I had to go to a theater about 30 minutes away. You'd think my local multiplex could have spared one screen to show it. But apparently, it didn't appeal to the right demographic.

10/26/08, 7:23 PM  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

Well, since your blog has never been hostile to a passionately phrased if possibly overstated case, how about:

* If you reject movies for TV, you are almost guaranteed to see almost nothing in a non-English language, so the Americanization of Everything, including our own pleasure and entertainment, continues apace.

* If you reject movies for TV, you are almost guaranteed to spend that much more time inside your own house (your own schedule, etc.), so that the Privatization of Everything, including everyone wearing their headphones absolutely everywhere, continues apace.

* If you reject movies for TV, you miss Trouble the Water and Ballast, though I'll concede that that's been about it for gobsmackers in the last few months (at least that I've seen).

10/26/08, 9:40 PM  
Blogger ModFab said...

Good points, Nick...especially that thing about privatization. Non-English language films are sketchier for me, though; the vast majority of movie theatres do not play foreign films, and many cable channels (and NetFlix) may make international cinema MORE available, not less. But I take the point.

Saw TROUBLE THE WATER and loved it...via NetFlix. BALLAST is on my list for its DVD release.

I hope I get my crap together. I miss the experience of moviegoing...just not the movies themselves.

10/26/08, 10:07 PM  
Blogger Dr. S said...

While I was in England last year, I saw at least one movie, and sometimes as many as three or four movies, in the theatre every week--because it was possible to go to the movies without a multi-hour drive each way. Here, I can't bring myself to do it--not least because I don't have the time to take an entire day to see a movie, unless I know it's going to be good. I miss being able to take a risk on a film, knowing that if it's no good, I'll just have a 20-minute walk home. Here, it's a 75-90 minute drive home from the really good theatre in Columbus, and there's very little that I can afford to do that for. It's frustrating, especially since I know that, as Nick points out, if I don't buy a ticket, I'm not helping keep films (like the one for which I'd buy a ticket) coming. But I'm also not so into the idea of all that carbon emission in order to see a substandard film. Sigh. It's frustrating to me that good cinema seems so much an urban or cosmopolitan-small-town phenom; if I were a millionaire, I'd try to open a good place near here. It would be nice to walk to the movies again.

10/29/08, 11:28 PM  

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